Our crack editorial team was out in force at the Annual Call Center Exhibition in Seattle in September, where events unfolded so quickly that our only view of the Space Needle was on the cab ride to and from the airport.
How could we be so busy that we missed out on taking in the aura and splendor of America’s most wonderful city? Because we were enmeshed in talk about call centers: where we are, how we got here and where we’re going as an industry. The Seattle show was rich with new tools for us to explore.
Together with our new colleagues from Incoming Calls Management Institute (ICMI) and its Call Center Management Review newsletter, we scoured the show for intriguing insights.
And in keeping with our charge to bring you the latest thinking and coolest tools that make the call center more effective and improve the customer interaction, we chose five products as Best of Show. We think they are emblematic of cutting edge thinking about current call center problems (and solutions to those problems). And we think they offer some of the most innovative pathways to excellence in call center operations.
Cheers to them all, and to everyone who went to ACCE and participated in our industry-wide three-day conversation.
You walk into a cavernous electronics store. There are lots of gadgets on the shelves, but not many knowledgeable people to assist you.
If only the store had a kiosk from where you could look up information about products in the store, and better yet, speak with someone directly who can demonstrate how to use the product.
At ACCE, Seattle-based Experticity demonstrated how places that receive lots of walkin traffic, like stores and hotels, could inject some call center wisdom into their customer service.
With the help of Experticity’s Nextprise, you can enable agents to communicate with customers on video over a peer-to- peer connection. The Nextprise server software handles the process of determining which agents are available; agents use the Nextprise client software, plus a Webcam, microphone and video monitor, to connect with customers.
Banks and some outsourcers introduced video call centers in the late 1990s. And with the ubiquity of broadband networks that can actually accommodate video, it’s now easier than ever for companies to enable call center agents to speak with customers face- to-face. The demo of Nextprise at ACCE featured a member of Experticity’s team on video; we found as easy (if not easier) to converse with her as with the folks we saw at the booth.
We’re sold on the ability of Nextprise to provide easy access to live, knowledgeable call center agents at locations like banks, hotels and retail stores; that’s why Nextprise earns a Best of Show award. 206-762-3158, Experticity
FurstPerson's FurstHire Hiring System 3.1
Typically, the most important and arduous task for many call center managers can be keeping their agents from leaving. If you’re a manager who is starting up a call center, hiring is at the top of your list. We found one software tool, FurstPerson’s (Chicago, IL) FurstHire Hiring System Version 3.1, that simplifies the process and makes it a little less painful for both the interviewer and the prospective interviewee.
One of the highlights of this software is that the system collects a candidate’s data in real time, allowing a client to utilize reporting tools on a real time basis.
Included in this award-winning package is the new simulation test: CC Audition 2.0, hosted tool software that assesses prospective call center agents. CC Audition lets call centers access and evaluate a candidate in a simulated work environment. Plus, candidates can sample what their prospective work environment might be like.
This is a great tool for recruiting top agents for your call center, while also giving better assurance that top-performing agents will remain on the job. With a simplified hiring process you can expect a shorter recruiting time, save money on the costs of hiring and raise your productivity level faster. The sooner you hire agents, the sooner agents will increase the productivity of your center. 888-626-3412, FurstPerson
Jacada's Fusion Agent Portal
Jacada (Atlanta, GA) took advantage of the ACCE setting to launch the latest iteration of its agent desktop productivity software.
Fusion Agent Portal is a way for a company with lots of call center agents – and lots of business apps that the agents need to use – to coordinate the broad streams of information into one simple interface. Jacada calls its software a portal; that word connotes a window, or a simple “view” into what’s going on in your business apps. In fact, the software is much more powerful than that, which is why it wins a Best of Show award. The power belies the simplicity of the user interface.
Fusion Agent Portal is built on the same underlying technology as Jacada’s earlier Fusion product. Both tools start from a simple premise: that there are too many applications cluttering up the agent’s screen, clamoring for attention. When agents are forced to switch between applications, they risk wasting time and introducing errors.
With Fusion Agent Portal, Jacada has created a way to non-invasively gather together all the various apps (no matter what platform they run on) and present their information and their full functionality through one interface. Hence the fusion.
This variation introduces a level of workflow control and business process optimization to the coordinated desktop. Jacada has added new capabilities, seems to be taking the underlying idea of Fusion in an innovative and genuinely interesting direction. 800-773-9574/770-352-1300, Jacada
Telephony@Work's CallCenter@nywhere Outsourcer Edition 8.0
Telephony@Work (La Jolla, CA) debuted CallCenter@nywhere Outsourcer Edition Version 8.0 at ACCE. We were impressed with the ability of this software to use customer feedback to inform routing rules.
For outsourcers, the great thing about CallCenter@nywhere Outsourcer Edition Version 8.0 is that it simplifies the process of leveraging a common pool of agents to assist customers on behalf of a variety of clients.
With this software, an outsourcer’s supervisors and administrators can generate reports that aggregate data across partitions that distinguish data for one client from the data for another. Besides separating data among clients, version 8.0 lets an outsourcer’s clients partition their data internally among different operations, such as fulfillment and customer support.
CallCenter@nywhere also includes dashboards that present an outsourcer with a complete real-time view of overall organizational performance among all the clients the outsourcer represents. The software features a new administrative supervision manager interface that lets individual supervisors create and customize real-time data fields and reporting information. Managers can view information about agents, projects and interactions in a single view or in separate views.
It’s no secret that companies often have higher standards for outsourcers than they do for their internal call centers. That means they have higher standards for call center agents whom outsourcers employ than for agents they employ. But agents, after all, are human, and an agent who may have provided superior service months ago may not necessarily be effective all the time.
CallCenter@nywhere addresses this challenge by recognizing when an agent’s performance patterns change and by adapting to them. One way CallCenter@nywhere does this is by enabling you to set up automated post-call surveys so that customers provide feedback on their level of satisfaction with the agents they just spoke with.
The value of this approach is not limited to simply providing reporting data. CallCenter@nywhere lets you incorporate customer feedback among the factors you use to determine which agents receive which calls. It’s a great idea that we – and, we hope, outsourcers – will come to endorse. 858-410-1600, Telephony@Work
Witness System's Impact 360
We’re big fans of systems that combine scheduling, evaluation and training to enable agents to improve their communication with customers.
Within the last 18 months, several call monitoring companies have either developed, or acquired purveyors of, workforce management tools with the aim of creating full-fledged agent development suites.
At ACCE, and a week later, at CMP’s Call Centre Expo in Birmingham, U.K., Witness Systems (Roswell, GA) demonstrated its Impact 360 suite, which brings together tools for agents and their supervisors to track and bolster agents’ performance. We were fortunate enough to get a sneak peak at Impact 360 during ACCE.
Beyond accommodating circuit and packet-switched networks, which the call monitoring component of Impact 360 can do, the suite lets you use a single reporting engine to gauge how well agents perform on internal evaluations of their conversations, how agents score during training courses and how agents follow their schedules.
More importantly, Impact 360 illustrates a trend in companies toward dovetailing call centers’ aims with corporate aims. The best place to start is by defining what it means for a customer service operation, and the people who comprise it, to run well. Impact 360 isn’t the first agent development suite for call centers, but it sets a standard for what call centers should look for in tools that help them understand how they can perform at their best. For this reason, Witness’ Impact 360 earns a Best of Show award. 888-3-WITNESS/770-754-1900, Witness Systems